#Elise #Stefanik #Rogue #Endorsing #Carl #Paladino
“Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the No. 3 Republican in the House, rankled fellow House GOP leaders when she backed a New York congressional candidate with a history of controversial and racist remarks,” NBC News reports.
“Stefanik endorsed Carl Paladino (R) earlier this month without consulting other members of a leadership team that includes House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).
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Exclusive: Majority Opposed to Supreme Court Abortion Ruling – TalkOfNews.com
#Majority #Opposed #Supreme #Court #Abortion #Ruling
A new poll from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist finds Americans opposed to the Supreme Court decision to overturn Row v. Wade by a 56% to 40% margin, with a plurality strongly opposed and Democrats getting more energized to vote.
Exclusive: Religious Accommodation Claim Over Objections to Having to Wear Multi-Colored Heart Symbol Can Go to Trial – TalkOfNews.com
#Religious #Accommodation #Claim #Objections #Wear #MultiColored #Heart #Symbol #Trial
From Judge Lee Rudofsky’s opinion Thursday in EEOC v. Kroger Ltd. Partnership I (E.D. Ark. June 23, 2022):
This case arises from Kroger’s termination of two employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges that these terminations amount to religious discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kroger disagrees.
The two employees at issue—Brenda Lawson and Trudy Rickerd—worked at a Kroger store in Conway, Arkansas. They were fired after refusing to follow the new employee dress code established by Kroger. That new dress code required most store employees to wear an apron that prominently featured a multi-colored heart symbol [pictured above -EV]. Lawson and Rickerd felt that the multi-colored heart symbol supported and promoted the LGBTQ community. That was a problem for Lawson and Rickerd because they both have sincerely held religious beliefs that homosexuality is a sin and that they cannot support or promote it.
After being reprimanded for their refusal to follow the dress code, but before termination, Lawson and Rickerd each requested a religious accommodation from Kroger. Lawson requested that she be allowed to place her nametag over the multi-colored heart. Rickerd requested that she be allowed to purchase an apron without the multi-colored heart on it. They both told Kroger that the failure to allow such accommodations (and continued discipline regarding this dress-code issue) would be religious discrimination.
Kroger neither granted the requested accommodations nor suggested any other potential accommodations. Instead, Kroger attempted (on multiple occasions) to explain to Lawson and Rickerd that the multi-colored heart symbol had no relation to the LGBTQ community whatsoever. Lawson and Rickerd were unpersuaded and continued to refuse to display the symbol. After multiple rounds of discussions and discipline, Kroger fired both women for refusing to comply with the dress code. After Lawson and Rickerd complained to the EEOC, the EEOC brought suit against Kroger….
The lawsuit was chiefly premised on the statutory requirement that employers exempt employees even from neutral, generally applicable workplace rules if (to oversimplify slightly),
- “the employee’s sincerely held religious belief conflicted with the employer’s workplace rule” and
- the employer can’t “show that accommodating the religious observance or practice would have created an ‘undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.’”
The court began by noting that the sincere belief requirement could be satisfied, under the Court’s precedents, even if the employer says the heart symbols were unrelated to gay pride, so long as the employee sincerely believed they were; and here, “Kroger concedes that Lawson and Rickerd sincerely believe that wearing the Our Promise symbol violates their religion.” And the court added,
In any event, even if Kroger was right that the conflict question included an objective-reasonableness component, there’s evidence in the record that would allow (but not require) a rational juror to conclude that the EEOC has proven prong one. That is, a rational juror could conclude that Lawson and Rickerd reasonably believed that wearing the multi-colored heart would communicate support for and promotion of the LGBTQ community…
Regardless of what Kroger intended for its Our Promise symbol to mean, Lawson and Rickerd object to being seen as supporting or promoting homosexuality…. [A] rational juror could go either way on that question.
At least ten (and possibly as many as twenty) other employees in the same store thought the Our Promise symbol communicated support for or promotion of the LGBTQ community…. [T]here was [also] no campaign to explain the meaning of the multi-colored heart to customers or other non-employees. Essentially, the meaning of the Our Promise symbol was left up to the imagination and interpretation of each particular customer who saw it. Indeed, there is evidence of non-employees concluding that the multi-colored heart was a pro-LGBTQ symbol.
The more people who saw the multi-colored heart the same way Lawson and Rickerd saw it, the harder it becomes to say that no rational juror could find Lawson and Rickerd’s view to be reasonable. Given the number of people in this case who came to the same conclusion as Lawson and Rickerd did, the Court would be reticent to declare this view unreasonable as a matter of law.
The court also concluded that there was a jury question as to whether Kroger could have exempted Lawson and Rickard without “undue hardship.” It cited the Eighth Circuit standard:
Any hardship asserted, furthermore, must be real rather than speculative, merely conceivable, or hypothetical. An employer stands on weak ground when advancing hypothetical hardships in a factual vacuum. Undue hardship cannot be proved by assumptions nor by opinions based on hypothetical facts. Undue hardship requires more than proof of some fellow-worker’s grumbling…. An employer … would have to show … actual imposition on co-workers or disruption of the work routine.
And it went on to reason:
Kroger argues that accommodating Lawson and Rickerd (and potentially other employees) would have had a more than de minimis impact on Kroger’s branding, business image, and customer relations. Kroger says that granting the requested accommodations would have “undermined the real meaning of the Our Promise symbol” by “giving credence to [the employees’] false assertion that Kroger intended the Our Promise symbol to promote LGBTQ rights” and “endors[ing] the religious belief.” Kroger also says that accommodating Lawson and Rickerd would have “undermine[d] Kroger’s commitment to customer relations and deprive[d] Kroger of free branding.”
On the record in this case, a rational juror could find that accommodating Lawson and Rickerd (and potentially other employees) would have had no effect or next-to-no effect on Kroger’s branding or business image…. [First, p]roviding a religious accommodation to an employee does not signal an employer’s agreement with the employee’s beliefs that created the need for the accommodation. Still, it is theoretically possible that someone could mistakenly consider Kroger’s accommodation of Lawson and Rickerd to be the company’s acknowledgement that its Our Promise symbol was related to the LGBTQ community. But that theoretical possibility is speculative. And it is even more speculative that enough people would share this view—and change their behavior because of it—to result in any hardship to the conduct of Kroger’s business.
As to Kroger’s concern about its “commitment to customer relations” being “undermine[d],” a rational juror could conclude on this record that the requested accommodations would have had no impact on the company’s commitment or its employees’ commitment to customer relations. One of Kroger’s corporate representatives testified that it was “not important for [Kroger’s] customers to know what Our Promise is.” Instead, the Our Promise symbol was used to remind employees of Kroger’s customer-service philosophy. Moreover, the multi-colored heart symbol was not the only way Kroger instilled customer-service values in its employees. There was the inscription on the back of the apron that Kroger made sure employees would see “when they put [the apron] over their head every day.” And Maxwell posted signs in the employee break room that explained the Our Promise campaign, symbol, and Kroger’s commitment to customer service….
Kroger did not require its divisions to adopt the Our Promise symbol. If the Our Promise symbol was important to the conduct of Kroger’s business, one would expect the company to require its use….
Kroger’s final argument in this category—that the requested accommodations would “deprive[ ] Kroger of free branding”—fares no better. The Our Promise symbol does not bear Kroger’s name or any other similar company-identifying logo. The Our Promise symbol has not been marketed to customers….
Kroger also contends that it would have incurred additional financial costs because it “would have had to purchase new aprons for the associates who refused to wear the Our Promise symbol.” But Lawson did not ask for a new apron at all. Lawson asked only that she be allowed to cover the multi-colored heart with her nametag. And Rickerd specifically offered “to buy another apron to ensure there is no financial hardship on Kroger.” So, it certainly doesn’t appear that Kroger would have incurred any additional financial costs had it granted the religious accommodations….
Kroger argues that the requested accommodations would have “caused a substantial disruption in Kroger’s workplace and created potential liability for Kroger against harassment suits from LGBTQ employees.” … Kroger certainly has provided evidence from which a rational juror could conclude that granting the requested accommodations would have led to disruption in the workplace. Primarily, that evidence consists of the disruption that did occur at the store around the time of the distribution of the aprons.
Essentially, Kroger’s read of the record is that something akin to a civil war broke out in the Conway store. Kroger says that Lawson, Rickerd, and the other objecting employees had “discussions with their co-workers [that] led to most employees in the store knowing that [they] refused to wear the uniform because they regarded homosexuality and participation in the LGBTQ community as a sin.” According to Kroger, this offended “members of the LGBTQ community and their allies” and “led to polarization within the workplace, which witnesses described as ‘pretty divisive’ and ‘causing some controversy,’ ‘a major issue,’ ‘an uproar,’ ‘a split,’ and impacting employee comfort.” Peace only came, according to Kroger, once it was clear that Kroger would strictly enforce its dress code.
The problem for Kroger—at the summary judgment stage—is that its reading of the record is not the only plausible one. A rational juror could conclude that the extent and duration of the workplace disruption was significantly less intense. Maxwell (the Store Leader) testified that, while Lawson and Rickerd “did have some support from other associates,” he “wasn’t aware of any” “division” in the Conway store. Judy (on whom Kroger partially relies for its workplace-disruption argument) testified that he did not think it fair “to say this issue split the store.” Indeed, if all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the EEOC, the only specific instance of a disruption in the workplace that Kroger points to—the red-marker-and-rainbow-tape incident—could be viewed as being entirely resolved in as little time as an hour or two.
There is no evidence of a meaningful reduction in employee productivity. There is no evidence of a meaningful increase in employee absenteeism. There is no evidence that workplace disruption impacted Kroger’s profits in any way. A rational juror could see all of this as normal workplace friction that was easily resolved by management with no real impact to the business. Further, a rational juror could conclude that granting the requested accommodations would not have caused any additional impacts, even if the workplace friction was marginally prolonged.
Indeed, even if the workplace disruption was as bad as Kroger makes it out to be, Kroger would still not be entitled to summary judgment. As the EEOC emphasizes in its briefing, “it is the accommodation that must cause the disruption when asserting undue hardship.” A rational juror could conclude that the workplace disruption had little (or nothing) to do with Lawson and Rickerd at all, much less with their requests to cover the multi-colored heart or buy a new apron without the multi-colored heart…. It is easy to conclude that the disruption would have taken place in the absence of Kroger accommodating Lawson and Rickerd. That’s because the disruption did occur in the absence of the accommodations. As to whether granting the accommodations would have prolonged or reignited the disruption, there’s little evidence one way or the other. So, a rational juror could find the prolonged-or-reignited-disruption thesis to be speculative.
Kroger’s disruption argument extends beyond employee conflict. Kroger says customers learned about the employees’ views of the Our Promise symbol and began to complain about the symbol themselves. The only evidence of customer complaints comes from the declarations of Maxwell and Assistant Store Leader Kaela Goodnight. Maxwell tells about a single interaction he had with a customer …. Goodnight’s declaration is essentially the same, with the exception that she speaks of “multiple” interactions ….
A rational juror could conclude that the burden on Kroger from these interactions was de minimis. Neither Maxwell’s nor Goodnight’s statements (nor any other piece of evidence) proves that Kroger lost any of the complaining customers’ business. Neither statement (nor any other piece of evidence) proves that Maxwell or Goodnight spent a significant amount of time explaining the Our Promise symbol to these customers such that non-de minimis inefficiencies occurred. Instead, a rational juror could conclude that (1) more than one customer complained about the multi-colored heart, (2) Maxwell or Goodnight took a brief moment each time to explain what the Our Promise symbol means, and (3) nothing further occurred….
Kroger’s last remaining argument is that accommodating Lawson and Rickerd would have exposed Kroger to legal liability for fostering a hostile work environment or allowing Lawson and Rickerd to harass other employees. That’s a non-starter. All the accommodations would have done was allow Lawson and Rickerd to forego wearing the Our Promise symbol. That is not the stuff of harassment or hostile work environment claims.
This is so even though other people know why Lawson and Rickerd wanted an accommodation—i.e., that they don’t want to endorse homosexuality. Whether such a view is good or bad, right or wrong, it does not constitute harassment or create a hostile work environment. Other concerns Kroger might have—such as the potential for intolerant discussions of LGBTQ issues among workers—are not directly related to the accommodation itself and can be addressed if or when they occur….
Exclusive: Biden State Dept. Refusing To Cooperate With Afghanistan Inspector General Review – TalkOfNews.com
#Biden #State #Dept #Refusing #Cooperate #Afghanistan #Inspector #General #Review
There seems to be some discontent between the State Department and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), an agency that tracks corruption and waste in that country.
In a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinkin, the SIGAR Director says that the Biden administration’s State Department and Agency for International Development (USAID) are refusing to cooperate with SIGAR’s congressionally-mandated review.
After the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, Congress directed SIGAR to review many areas.
SIGAR was required by Congress to evaluate the performance of the Afghan forces leading up to the devastating collapse, but the Biden administration is arguing that SIGAR has no jurisdiction since the U.S. left Afghanistan.
New: U.S. House Oversight and Reform panel’s bipartisan leaders are asking for an investigation into what led to the collapse of the Afghan government and military forces. In letter to SIGAR, they ask for impact of Taliban’s return to power on U.S. national security & Afghan ppl
— Roxana Tiron (@rtiron) September 10, 2021
A Stalled Review
John Sopko, Director of SIGAR, makes a bold statement regarding State and USAID:
“Agency officials now appear to have adopted a premeditated position of obstruction.”
Allegedly, State and USAID members have ignored communications from SIGAR officials, going so far as to refuse access to individuals for interviews and shut down requests for SIGAR inspectors to travel internationally to conduct boots-on-ground research.
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Other areas of interest for SIGAR include information regarding the transfer of taxpayer dollars to the Taliban. Mr. Sopko is particularly concerned that they aren’t receiving ‘basic information’ when it comes to efforts that have been taken to guarantee programs supporting Afghan people aren’t going to the Taliban or Haqqani network.
NEW: Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko said State & USAID “are unreasonably refusing to provide information and assistance requested by SIGAR, in direct violation of [the law],” per letter just released by @GOPoversight https://t.co/eBIUe9AAW8
— Courtney Bublé (@courtneybuble) June 22, 2022
A State spokesperson responded to SIGAR’s allegations, stating:
“We have had concerns about how some of SIGAR’s requests for information relate to their statutory jurisdiction.”
Mr. Sopko responded in the letter, which of note was also sent to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain:
“State and USAID legal counsels’ claim that SIGAR’s jurisdiction does not include such matters is not only contrary to the law, but a gross deviation from over 14 years of precedent set by 3 prior administrations.”
RELATED: Biden Announces $1 Billion In Military Aid To Ukraine Despite Rumors Of Waning Western Support
This isn’t the first time there has been a dust-up between these two offices. For example, in a recent report from SIGAR, there was some disagreement on their assessment of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
The report said the deal initially made by the Trump administration in February 2020 and then honored by the Biden administration directly correlated to the Afghan military collapse. To be exact, the report blasted both administrations and stated their actions were the ‘catalyst’ and the ‘single most important near term factor’ in the collapse.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said of the report:
“Many parts of the U.S. Government, including the State Department, have unique insights into developments in Afghanistan last year that were not captured in the report. And we don’t concur with many aspects of the report.”
Within the report, SIGAR also said the U.S. was:
“…disconnected from a realistic understanding of the time required to build a self-sustaining security sector.”
The desire for answers regarding the Afghanistan withdrawal stems from significant losses during the operation.
None so raw for many Americans and veterans than the 13 service members who lost their lives when a terrorist detonated a suicide vest. The terrorist was imprisoned before the withdrawal but had been released once the Taliban took over the detainment facility.
Lot of people making fun of Boebert for shouting about the 13 dead servicemembers on Joe Biden’s hands. Not one is actually explaining why Biden spent zero words on them, given that his disgusting surrender led to their deaths.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 2, 2022
Then there was the tragic drone strike launched from faulty military intelligence. The strike killed aid worker Zemeri Ahmadi and seven children.
Finally, there is the question of the U.S. military equipment left behind. Of the $18.6 billion worth of equipment given to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, $7 billion was left behind. This equipment included aircraft, air-to-ground munitions, military vehicles, weapons, and communications equipment.
RELATED: Surprise! Experts Worried Weapons Sent To Ukraine Might End Up In Enemy Hands
A Disturbing Trend Of Poor Assessments
Our military community’s effectiveness in assessing other forces’ ability to withstand attacks from adversaries is under intense scrutiny from Congress.
For example, Senator Angus King of Maine said:
“I am not naive enough to think that this is easy or straightforward. What I do believe is it’s damned important and that we have to do a better job. Within one year we had two pretty straight up failures in the opposite direction.”
Senator King is referring to the military’s belief that the Afghan army would stand up to the Taliban and that Ukraine would fall within days of the Russian invasion. Both assessments were grossly inaccurate.
The Taliban militants took control of Afghanistan within 11 days. And as we all know, Ukraine is still fighting back against the Russian invasion.
The Department of Defense insists that while their assessments were wrong in Afghanistan, they weren’t wrong about Ukraine; they merely overestimated the Russian military capability. Which, in other words, means they were wrong.
Can anyone explain why Gen. Mark Milley still has a job? He said that Ukraine would fall in 3 days…it is now day 14. Why would you keep a chairman of the JCS that is that poor of a military strategist? And don’t even get me started on his “woke-ism”! 1/2
— Tee Rickey (@NiblickAdMan) March 9, 2022
RELATED: Has Our Government Learned Its Lesson From The Afghan Withdrawal?
What Else Are We Over (Or) Underestimating?
With two significant misjudgments in such a short time, the concern that our military has been ineffectual in keeping an eye on our near-peer adversaries is well-founded. Even as we were leaving Afghanistan, the military touted our ability to continue ‘over the horizon’ drone strikes against terrorist cells in Afghanistan.
However, a DOD Inspector General report states:
“Without a presence on the ground, the DOD relies on aviation assets to collect intelligence, surveil terrorist targets, and carry out airstrikes on terrorist targets. The DOD therefore requests over-flight agreements with another bordering nation to enter Afghan airspace.”
The only nation we have such an agreement with is Pakistan. So how many ‘over the horizon’ strikes have we made since the withdrawal? Zero.
This drone strike tragedy calls into question the idea of using “over-the-horizon” capabilities to deal with future terrorist threats in Afghanistan.
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) September 17, 2021
Besides the ever-present threat of terrorist organizations, the other adversary that poses a threat to the United States is China. Our leading spy agencies claim they have a high degree of intelligence on China. However, when China launched a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, it surprised everyone, including the DOD.
RELATED: China v. U.S. War Game Highlights Disastrous Weaknesses In Our Military Might
Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois and a member of the House Intelligence Committee said of the last two failures and possible future military engagement with China, “I assume our military is going to school.”
We need to do much more than assume and ensure our government cooperates with reviews that can shed light on the dark reality that we may not be as capable as we think.
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